October 27, 2021 at 1:40 pm
I woke up three times before my alarm even went off, and it was set for well before the sun came up – I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. Today was the first day of upland bird hunting for me this year. I started bird hunting just three years ago, and immediately fell in love with the sport. We hunt birds with German shorthaired pointers and as an avid animal person, I love hunting with dogs.
Once my alarm finally went off, we quickly got ready, got the dogs loaded up, and headed to the first cover we were going to hunt. Along with the excitement of flushing a bird, I also love how physical bird hunting is, and how much “high stepping” is involved. It is a great workout. On a typical hunt, we usually walk 8 miles or more a day.
After a short drive and arriving at our first cover, the dogs are yipping and barking in their kennels, they are so excited to get going. Ruger is 7 and in prime hunting condition, he bounds out of his kennel and immediately starts running with his nose to the ground. Bella, at 12, is as excited as Ruger but a little slower going. We active the dogs GPS collars and their beepers. Ruger’s collar beeps twice every 15 seconds, Bella’s once. When the dog stops moving the beeping becomes constant; meaning the dog is likely on point.
We make our way into the thick alder cover and the dogs start their figure-eight circles. They run around us and just out in front of us, nose to the ground, smelling for birds. It only takes a few minutes before I hear Ruger’s collar switch to the steady beep signaling he’s found a bird. We quickly find out that we are not the only ones excited for our first day of bird hunting, as Ruger flushes the bird before we can get close to him.
Knowing that Ruger will find more, we continue to the top of the hill, and I turn to look at the direction we came from and the fall foliage takes your breath away. The trees are ablaze with brilliant autumn reds and yellows. I stop to take a picture and of course just as I do this, Ruger finds another grouse. I hear Jeff telling Ruger “whoa, whoa, easy Ruger,” but I’m too far behind to get there. Jeff bags his first grouse with a nice shot as the grouse tried to thunder away.
Happy to have one grouse in the bag, we move on to another cover. This one is a little more open and easier walking. Bella and I enjoy this cover much more. The walking is easier, and as a newer hunter, I’m more comfortable shooting in more open areas. It’s not long before Bella finds a bird for me. I see her ahead pointing… her whole body quivering and shaking as she stands still, pointing at the bird. She gingerly takes a couple of steps closer, the bird flushes, and I’m thrilled when I make the shot.
Before the sun sets on a wonderful day, we hunt six covers, and came home with two ruffed grouse and three woodcock. That evening we cleaned the birds and took notice that the grouse crops are all filled with mushrooms. Anyone who has spent time in the woods this fall has noticed that this is a banner year for mushrooms and mushroom lovers (including grouse!). Mushrooms carpet the forest floor.
Since mushrooms are so soft, the birds don’t need as much grit to digest them, and it seems that is one reason we are not seeing many birds along the edge of dirt roads. On this day, we were fortunate to have Bella and Ruger locating birds we otherwise might have missed.
As we put the birds away in the fridge, we remark on what was a fantastic day with beautiful weather, amazing vistas, and wonderful dogs. I’m already excited for the next outing, and look forward to enjoying the fresh grouse at the dinner table while planning our next hunt.